US Army Seeks to Expand Combat Role of Robots – Info News

Swarms of soldier-controlled robots soon won’t be science fiction

Andrew Thornebrooke
JULY 26, 2018

The US Army is seeking to expand the ratio of robots to soldiers in some combat missions beyond the scope of 1:1. Training forces at Fort Benning, GA, are attempting to give individual soldiers the technology to control multiple air and ground robots at a time.

The reality of the military’s push to increase robots use will come as no surprise to many. Robots are already beginning to find a home in many military units as support units at the training and research levels, often providing an extra back to shoulder equipment, fight fires, dispose of explosive ordnance, or even sniff out enemy combatants. Logistics officers among the US military have sought unmanned transportation vehicles for years and DARPA’s robotics challenge to build more human-like robots with military potential began in 2012.

Earlier this year, however, the roboticization of militaries took an important leap forward when US and British troops performed a breach exercise that demonstrated robots could replace some soldiers in certain dangerous missions, where soldiers’ lives would traditionally be at high risk.

The exercise was an important step as, to date, the US military has not replaced boots on the ground with robots when it comes to one job: killing.

Augmented handheld drones, similar to those publicly available in the US, may soon see combat. Photo: Diana Măceşanu

The US drone warfare program is well known, to be certain, but has served to keep soldiers out of combat situations completely, rather than to augment the effectiveness of any individual soldier. The Army’s hope for US soldiers to control swarms of combat robots marks an important step towards limiting the death toll of American soldiers, still entrenched in Afghanistan, 17 years after the beginning of the War on Terror. Though the move has sparked some outcry among pacifists and conspiracy theorists.

Tabloids have been quick to quote supposed experts about the rapid entry of robots into the of soldiers, with some claiming that robotic killing machines will outnumber human soldiers by 2025. This estimation is likely far off target, however, as the majority of non-drone robotics programs in the military remain grounded in the research and development phase.

One question that remains is why is the push for robotic augmentation is gaining traction now? To this there are a number of possibilities, including both the rising costs of federal retirement plans and veteran’s benefits, which take up around 7% of the nation’s annual budget, and the Trump administration’s desire to boost American defense manufacturers whose international contracts may be in danger of falling through.

There is another potential cause for the robotics push: China. Amid renewed rows between the US, Chinese, and Russian governments, the possibility of international threat related to robotics has increased. Earlier this year, China’s burgeoning drone swarm technology was recorded during a surveillance drone demonstration, showing that the Chinese products could function with advanced behavior such as “collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying and self-healing,” according to Military.com.

US political and military officials are, no doubt, eager to demonstrate the superiority of American defense technology during such a time, though the necessity of augmenting American troops with the most advanced gear possible was made reality during the Obama administration, which cut 40,000 active-duty soldiers from army service in 2015.

For now, only time will tell when science overcomes fiction in American defense.

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An imprint of Thornebrooke Publishers

Article Prepared by Ollala Corp

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